Following an emergency congress last week, members of PEN Nigeria, an affiliate of the Nigerian Centre of PEN International, resolved that it would participate in the 87th extraordinary congress of PEN International, scheduled to hold between September 20 and 25, 2021. The congress will also serve as the centenary celebration of PEN International.
According to PEN Nigeria’s president, Folu Agoi, and secretary, Dagga Tolar, PEN Nigeria has deliberated over the candidacy of two members, Ben Okri, an acclaimed Nigerian poet and novelist based in the United Kingdom, and Chigozie Obioma, a United States-based Nigerian novelist who only joined PEN Nigeria in February 2021, and has not been known to most members of the centre.
They unanimously endorsed Okri, who communicated his interest and intention to run for the office of the presidency of PEN International in the upcoming election.
PEN Nigeria will nominate Okri for this office, and will actively canvass support for his candidature in Africa and at other PEN centres across the world.
That PEN Nigeria is extremely hopeful that Okri, if elected, will bring to bear his established authorial skills to PEN International, which will in turn widen the scope of the century-old organisation by providing a broader framework for authors and writers all over the world. His presidency will also consolidate the tradition of promoting and defending the rights and freedom of expression worldwide.
That PEN Nigeria welcomes the withdrawal of Chigozie Obioma from the PEN International presidential race. Mr. Obioma promised, in a mail, to step down if and when either Ben Okri or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie declares their intention to run for the exalted office, which he honourably did.
That the congress empowers the leadership of the PEN Nigeria to take all necessary steps to reach out to individuals and institutions far and wide in search of support for the candidature of Okri; and that the congress wishes Obioma well and will be happy to support his candidature in future when his person would have become better known and his impact felt in PEN Nigeria and PEN International as a whole.